- The faux 4K images look stunning
- Fantastic colour reproduction for HD and 4K material
- Superb black levels and shadow detail
- Lens memory functions
- Motorised lens shift and lens cover
- HDR compatible
- ISFccc Certified
- Epson colour filter gets 4K colours close to DCI-P3
- Only one HDCP 2.2 HDMI port
- Nothing else at this price vs. performance point
What is the Epson EH-TW9300?
The EH-TW9300 is the top-of-the-range bulb-based home cinema projector from Epson for 2017. It sits above the recently reviewed EH-TW7300 and adds a claimed higher contrast ratio, with 200 more lumens, better black levels and it retails for £2,999/$4,498. But in every other way the TW9300 is identical to the TW7300. As such the chassis design, motorised lens cover and 4K HDR compatibility are all present and correct. The fact that the EH-TW9300 can accept 4K UHD signals and display them in a faux 3840 x 2160 image is a key feature at this price point.
The Epson is also available in a TW9300W varient that, for an extra £300/$450, adds MHL connectivity for smartphone and tablet content along with WirelessHD for sending HD signals without long HDMI cable runs and it comes in white. We are reviewing the black coloured TW9300 unit without those features.
We were blown away with the EH-TW7300 a few months back and the only weak point for us was the overall contrast and black levels not quite living up to bat cave standards, but the EH-TW9300 certainly promises to solve those problems in the PR notes so let’s put it to the test and see if spending an extra grand gets you that black level upgrade.
Design, Connections and Control
The EH-TW9300 is a big projector and it measures in at 520 x 450 x 170mm (W x D x H) roughly the same size and depth as our reference JVC DLA-X7000 and it weighs in at 11Kg. The chassis has the classic layout of the high quality lens in the centre with air intake and exhaust ports either side. There is an electric lens cover that moves out of the way when powered up and is closed when off to protect from dust. This is important as the Lens optics are not sealed on this LCD projector which can allow dust to build-up and cause dust blobs. You need to bear this in mind and mitigate against it by making sure you position the projector in the best spot within a room that is as dust free as possible. The motorised lens cover will help while the projector is switched off, but not completely. As you might have guessed the lens shift, focus and zoom are all motorised and this allows the TW9300 to also include a lens memory function. Also at the front is the 3D emitter and remote sensor along with adjustable feet for use if you’re table mounting.
Looking at the rest of the chassis we have a flap like door to the right side of the body (from the front), which hides a number of manual keys for entering the menu system along with surface mounted power and source buttons. This will allow complete control of the projector should you lose the remote control. Above this area is a blue light, which indicates that the projector is on, powering up or closing down, along with lights to warn against over heating etc.
Around the back we have the connections, which are in a long recess at the rear of the unit that should help with cable management when ceiling mounted. Above the connections is a further emitter and remote sensor. In terms of the connections we have the same layout as the TW7300 with the TW9300 sporting just one HDCP 2.2 compliant HDMI input and a second HDMI 1.4 only connector. This does appear limiting at first but not when you realise that most users either connect directly or via the video switcher in their (HDCP 2.2 compliant) AV Receiver. A PC/VGA connector is the only other video input on the TW9300 and the connections are rounded off with service USBs, and LAN and RS232C ports for use with Control4, AMX and Crestron products if desired. The power socket is located at the bottom of the rear connection area and slightly further recessed.
Rounding off this section we have the provided remote control and yes, you guessed it, it is the same unit that is used by the TW7300. So we have a large and well-weighted unit that fits neatly in the hand and has all the major controls within easy thumb reach. It is backlit for use in a bat cave, which is important for a projector and there are also memory buttons for 16:9 and 2.40:1 lens memories so you can switch between aspect ratios on your scope screen easily and quickly.
We are surprised with the amount of high-end features at this price point
Features and Specification
As with the TW7300 the step-up TW9300 is a 3LCD projector using 0.74inch MLA D9 panels with a native resolution of 1920 x 1080p. The projector is compatible with 4K signals with or without HDR metadata and the projector uses a technology similar to eShift on the JVC models, in that it moves the image diagonally by 0.5 pixels to create a faux 3840 x 2160p image on screen. This opens up the TW9300 to the new market of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and streaming services and making it compatible through its HDCP 2.2 HDMI input. There is also the Epson cinema filter that helps the projector get close to the DCI-P3 colour space, which is currently used with the 4K Blu-ray releases, although it is not an official standard. There is also 10bit colour processing on board along with a claimed contrast ratio of 1million to one and a brightness figure of 2500 Lumens. It is the contrast figure that is interesting here and points to the major difference between this projector and the TW7300 being in the dynamic range and black level stakes.
The fully motorised lens memory functionality is almost unheard of at this price point and should appeal to those of us who have gone with scope screens in our home cinemas. There are also two memory buttons on the remote, which makes changing between 1.85:1 and 2.40:1 content as easy as a single button press. Some other systems out there required menu entry and a few selections to move between ratios, so the slick integration here is very welcome. The motorised lens cover is also very much required with an LCD projector and the flexibility of the lens shift helps with installation in difficult spaces.
The TW9300 is also a 3D capable projector using active 3D technology and there is also 2D to 3D conversion available if you feel like a laugh. When using the 3D mode the projector reverts to 1080p output only, so no pixel shift. Sadly Epson didn’t send us a set of the optional glasses and we couldn’t get other brands we have here to work either. Therefore we can’t tell you what it is like with 3D content, but it wasn’t a highlight in the TW7300 so you are probably wise to demo one if that is a required part of your use of the TW9300.
In terms of picture quality features the EH-TW9300 has five picture presents, which are – Dynamic, Natural, Cinema, Digital Cinema and Bright Cinema. The interesting point to take note of here is that the Cinema modes introduce the Epson cinema filter into the light path, which increases the colour space to close to DCI. However in Natural mode the filter is removed and the colour space is close to Rec.709 which is the native colour space for all TV broadcasting, Blu-rays and streaming services in HD. So if you are going to be using Blu-ray and streaming as your main sources you should use the Natural picture preset with the correct setting for 2.4 gamma and white balance. Only when feeding the projector content such as UHD Blu-ray that is mastered in the wider colour space of DCI should you use the cinema modes. Otherwise you are adding too much colour saturation to Blu-ray content and not seeing the graded image as intended.
Other image features include frame interpolation for various sources as well as an intelligent dynamic iris with two speed settings. We found the iris was OK in use but we could still see issues in mixed content and noticeable jumps on occasion. We ended up switching off the iris as the calibrated performance of the shadow details and highlights were superb. There are also five image presets under the 4K Enhancement menu including Noise Reduction, Super Resolution and Detail Enhancement. These are very much a personal preference selection of features and they can all be switched off. Finally for the picture features the TW9300 is also ISFccc certified and has full calibration controls available with full white balance, colour management and gamma controls.
As usual we used our Klein K10-A Meter, Murideo Fresco Six-G pattern generator and CalMANProfessional software to measure the various presets and settings to find the closest out-of-the-box to the standards. With Standard Definition material that is Rec.709 colour space and D65 white point and on the TW9300 that means the Natural picture preset with colour temperature set to 7000K (which is closer than 6500 on this projector) and Gamma at -1 for a 2.4 curve. We also used the Eco lamp mode in our bat cave environment.
Note that the Cinema picture modes use the Epson cinema filter for DCI-P3 wider colour and therefore are not accurate for use with Blu-ray, TV and streaming services which are all mastered for viewing in the HD Rec.709 standard. So remember to use the Natural setting we are using here.
Out of the box in the natural mode and with white balance set to 7000K the results (top left) are superb for an out of the box preset. The tracking is excellent with just a few small issues throughout the scale. DeltaE Errors are under 3 apart from 100 percent white which is just over at 3.2, but this is a superb set of results that will go unnoticed by viewers. Gamma is just a touch high (dark) at 10ire and a little Low (bright) around the 50-70ire marks, but again this is not visible on screen with normal viewing material. Just like the TW7300 the step-up TW9300 is just as accurate out of the box. Just be aware that every projector, even in the same model group will be slightly different in performance as we are using a bulb-based unit, but even so if most can get around this level of accuracy it should bode well for end users.
Moving to the Rec.709 colour gamut performance (top right) we also have yet another superb out of the box performance from the TW9300 with only a few hue and saturation errors appearing on the graph. You wouldn’t be able to see these issues when viewing normal material. We can obviously fix these with the ISFccc calibration controls included in the Epson, but in reality its tidying the graphs more than adding anything that is going to be visible onscreen. Excellent results yet again from Epson.
The calibration controls for correcting the greyscale are a little on the coarse side but we were able to use them to get DeltaE errors lower than the out-of-the box measurements.
As you can see (top left) all DeltaE errors are now 2 and under which means they are below the visual threshold of most viewers. The graph might look a little bumpy in the Greyscale track from black to white but there are no visible signs of tint or colour change and with gamma also tracking bang on 2.4 we couldn’t get any better results to be honest. The Epson is so accurate out of the box that in the case of this review sample there was no actual visible changes between calibrated and out-of-the-box. However as we said above no two projectors will be the same as each has different characteristics from the bulbs used, so don’t expect every TW9300 to perform exactly the same out of the box. Like the greyscale results we were able to fix the hue and saturation errors in the colour gamut (top right) so the graphs looked better, but again the results didn’t make any major visible difference given the initial accuracy.
Note: You need to use the Cinema preset for wider DCI colours and HDR playback. This introduces the Epson cinema filter into the light path which dulls the image slightly but makes sure that colours get as close as possible to the DCI-P3 standard currently used in mastering UHD Blu-ray discs within the Rec.2020 container.
We did notice a quirk with our review sample of the TW9300 when it came to feeding various Ultra HD signals, refresh rates and bit rates into the projector. It was very fussy about the exact signal it would accept, so much so that it did impact on the results obtained with HDR metadata signals from our pattern generator. As such we couldn’t get a full Rec.2020 measurement over 64% but we know that it should be getting close to 75% in reality, so we put it down on this occasion to the projector just being fussy with signals it was sent. It works fine with UHD players so we are not concerned about the performance here. However with other measurements we had no issues and were able to get some interesting results.
Greyscale tracking (top left) was reasonable if a little red heavy higher up the scale with a lack of green in the same track. This resulted in high DeltaE results but we didn’t see anything in the onscreen material we watched that stood out for the majority of our time watching the TW9300. EOTF tracking was also good but there was a little clipping in the higher reaches. In terms of the projector being able to track the DCI-P3 colour volume the Epson does a great job with just magenta tracking off towards blue and a few other small issues with hue and saturation errors. But overall for the price point vs. performance the Epson cinema filter certainly helps the TW9300 track DCI very well and this translates to good-looking UHD Blu-ray images with nicely saturated colours.
Now it is important to stress that we measure only out-of-the-box results for HDR on all displays as that is what the vast majority of users will be watching and we need to give a realistic summary of what to expect. As the standards and tone mapping gets better over the next few months (and years) we will start to add calibration into these results. It is also important to stress that HDR on a projector doesn’t quite have the same WOW factor as it does on a TV screen. Projectors just can’t reach the brightness levels needed to even approach the type of image you get on today’s HDR TVs, but you can benefit from the wider colour gamut and added detail of UHD Blu-ray’s using a projector like the TW9300.
Let’s cut to the chase and the one thing you want to know having read all about the TW7300 – are the black levels any good on the TW9300? Well yes, yes they are. It is quite stunning to do a roll call of all the features and technology onboard the Epson and then add to that black levels that outperform any other projector under £5,000. Strong words but we had to pinch ourselves a few times with the performance the TW9300 conjured up in our bat cave viewing room. You can split the two similar Epson models on the viewing environment you will be using them in. If you have a dedicated room with superb light control and dark coloured surfaces the TW9300 is the machine for you with its stunningly good blacks and shadow detail retrieval. If you don’t quite have the light controlled room and your walls and ceiling are white or similar then the TW7300 is the machine for you with all the strengths for such a room (the TW9300 would lose its black level advantage in such an environment so you are better off saving some cash).
Starting with UHD Blu-ray we spun up The Revenant that has quickly become a reference point for testing displays. As we have said at length in this and other reviews, projectors struggle with HDR content and just can’t produce the same type of image an HDR TV, like our reference Samsung KS9500, can display with ease. They just don’t have the brightness and dynamic range needed to display HDR like a TV. However there are areas where a projector excels with UHD Blu-ray and that is with resolution, image size and colour performance. The TW9300 is capable of showing an incredibly dynamic image with strong blacks and good shadow detail, bettering the performance of the TW7300 with excellent shadow detail retrieval and strong highlights that are not clipped. Image brightness suits a bat cave environment especially with the Epson cinema filter in place that does sit in the light path and take some edge off the overall brightness. You could switch to full lamp mode but this will significantly impact on fan noise from the projector. But if you can get away with it then the Epson is capable of decent image dynamics and brightness. Black levels are outstanding at this price point and compete with the far more expensive JVC X5000 (a fact backed up by our own Steve Withers who has tested both and thinks that the Epson nicks it). Image resolution and sharpness is identical to the TW7300 as are the impressive colours that the TW9300 is capable of. It is extremely accurate with skin tones along with superb hues and saturation of natural landscapes seen in The Revenant. You feel cold watching the hunting scene such is the realism of the images on display.
Switching to Deepwater Horizon on UHD Blu-ray and we are met with stunning depth and detail in the darkness of the corridors of the rig while searching for survivors. Even with such conditions on screen the details in the shadows were excellent with no obvious clipping. Added to that is the dynamic range between the blacks of the night and orange explosions surrounding the actors and rig, with some intense flame detailing seen within the explosions giving them a real sense of depth and weight. Again you can almost feel the heat of the fire given the superb job the TW9300 does with the images it is fed. Even when moving to bog standard HD Blu-ray the accuracy of the projectors Natural preset to Rec.709 is brilliant. We used the same demo scenes from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes that we did with the TW7300 and the results where just as stunning, but with the added benefit of better dynamic range and contrast performance. Colours were once again bang on the money and the Epson machines just have a fantastic ability to produce really nuanced hues and tones when it comes to colour accuracy. Images are extremely cinematic and once again you need to pinch yourself when it comes back to performance vs. price.
We really struggled to find any negatives with the Epson given the performance on offer for the price point. Motion resolution is excellent and 24fps material is handled properly with no induced blur not already present in the source material and detail remained strong with no back door processing or noise reduction getting in the way. Sadly we were unable to review the 3D performance as Epson didn’t supply any glasses and we couldn’t get other brand glasses to sync. Given the TW7300 wasn’t the best performer with 3D it is possible the same is true here, so if 3D is important try and demo the TW9300.
Epson EH-TW9300 Video Review
For the money the TW9300 is outstanding!
Don’t let the fact that HDR on a projector is nowhere near as good as a TV put you off going the big screen route with something like the Epson TW9300. Yes, it can’t produce the specular highlights like our Samsung KS9500 TV or get anywhere near the brightness required for HDR, but that kind of misses a few points we think are more important. First of all you have the big screen inches you just can’t get with a TV, and certainly not for the £3,000/$4,500 entry point. Plus you get wider colours that are pretty accurate for UHD Blu-rays and from a normal seating distance you also have fantastic resolution that looks very similar to far more expensive native 4K projectors. And finally, where the TW7300 did slightly disappoint, with black levels in a bat cave, the TW9300 knocks it out of the park. This projector is stunningly good for that £3,000/£4,500 outlay and you’ll be watching your favourite movies with a big smug grin on your face knowing you have an absolute bargain.
We are really struggling to think of any negatives that would cause anyone not to consider this projector at the money. It clearly beats everything available at the moment (April 2017) under £5K/$7.5K and even pushes a few above that price point.
It looks like Epson mean business in this area of the market and with the Best Buy TW7300 taking care of the £2,000/$3,000 and under section, the TW9300 quite comfortably has the Best Buy crown for the £5,000/$7,500 and under sector. Impressive stuff indeed.